While the same resume may be sent to many different companies, the cover letter must be targeted to each job opening. Studies show that your cover letter will get eight seconds of the reader's time, so it must be brief, yet informative.
Cover letters should be limited to one page of three to four paragraphs in length. Block style is popular for business letters in which all information is typed flush to the left margin. It should be printed in the same high-quality bond paper as your resume.
When an employment posting asks applicants to include salary requirements or salary history, you may address this in the cover letter with a comment such as, "An acceptable salary range for me would be $25,000 to $30,000 and I would be willing to discuss my salary requirements with you further upon learning more about the specific responsibilities for this position." If posting doesn't ask for salary history, don't mention salary until an offer is on the table.
The opening paragraph should state why you are writing and why you are interested in the organization. If you are writing about a job opening, you should name the specific position for which you are applying and explain how you learned about the position. In addition, tell the employer how you became aware of the vacancy. If you were referred to the employer, this is the best place to mention that person's name and to point out that he or she suggested you write. A letter of inquiry should provide evidence of your career direction by mentioning desired job functions if you are not sure of a specific job title.
Explain why you are interested in working for this employer and the specific motivation for desiring this type of work. If you have relevant work experience or related education, be sure to point this out. Emphasize skills or abilities you have that relate to the job for which you are applying. If you have qualifications that are not on your resume, this is your opportunity to discuss them.
The closing paragraph states what you will do next (such as calling to arrange an interview at the employer's convenience) or what you would like the recipient of the letter to do next. An appropriate closing can pave the way for an interview.